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An experienced horse rider dies from a fall… But was it murder?

Shelly Malone

Authorities say Shelly’s horse trampled her

CASE DETAILS

On October 18, 1992, paramedics were called to a field in a wooded area outside The Plains, Virginia. 37-year-old Shelly Malone, an accomplished horsewoman, had been badly injured in a riding accident. As paramedics struggled to save Shelly’s life, her boyfriend, George Carhart, and two other friends, could only stand by helplessly and watch. One of them, Erica Stumvoll, was the only witness to the accident. According to Erica, Shelly’s horse had stepped on her and kicked her repeatedly. One blow was apparently powerful enough to rupture her heart. Shelly died later that day.

They discovered blood stains in her car

According to the coroner, it was an accidental death. People in horse country tend to accept occasional accidents as part of their lives. But to Shelly’s family, it seemed an impossible scenario for such an experienced rider. According to her mother, Frances Shewan, Shelly had been around horses since she was a young child:

“Shelly was born loving horses. When she was six or seven, she’d tell me she was going to marry a horse when she grew up. So she never ever lost her interest in horses.”

It was horses that brought Shelly to The Plains area in 1988. Shelly lived in a small house out in the country, a perfect place to stable her two horses. In 1990, she started dating George Carhart, who lived in New York and came down frequently to visit.
However, Shelly’s mother claimed that after two years, Shelly was ready to move on:

“The relationship was strained. She had related to my husband and me that she was bringing this relationship to a close.”

Family members found emptied jewelry boxes

Two days before she died, Shelly allegedly had a romantic encounter with a local attorney. Shelly’s family believed George Carhart found out about the affair when he came to visit that final weekend. On the afternoon of her death, Shelly went riding with Erica Stumvoll. George Carhart and Carter Wiley, Erica’s boyfriend, stayed behind at the house. Erica has issued only one official statement about the day’s events—a written document she prepared and delivered to the police. This is a selected portion of Erica’s statement:

“We alternately walked, trotted, and galloped the horses through several fields and trails. We were approximately 100 yards into a new field we had just entered. We were walking the horses side by side to cool them down. Unexpectedly, both horses spooked, or started. I was thrown and fell off to the left of my horse. I was not seriously injured. I sighted Shelly about 30 feet away.  The horse stepped on her legs, face, and head, kicking her head as he did so in an apparent attempt to get away. As the horse moved away from her, I immediately ran to her.  I checked her pulse and looked in her mouth to see if there were any obstructions. I noticed her left cheek was turning purplish blue, which I assumed was the result of the horse stepping on her face.  Fearful of a head injury as a result of seeing the horse kick her in the head, I then concluded that the best thing to do was try to seek medical help.”

Was Shelly killed by her own horse?

Erica claimed she got lost trying to find help.  It would be an hour and a half before paramedics reached Shelly.  Later, George Carhart called Shelly’s mother in Florida:

“When the phone rang, he said, ‘Shelly’s had an accident.’ I expected him to say she slipped and broke an arm or a leg or something. And I said, ‘What kind of an accident?’ And he said, ‘She’s dead.’”

Shelly’s family left Florida and hurried to Virginia.  When they arrived at the morgue, they were shocked by what they saw.  According to Shelly’s mother, her daughter looked like she had been involved in much more than a riding accident:

“One of the clerks there showed us the Polaroid of my daughter’s face. It was so battered and so swollen—her eyes were black and blue—that I didn’t recognize her.”

The coroner ruled Shelly’s death an accident, but other events made Shelly’s family even more suspicious.  Two days after Shelly’s funeral, her family members visited her house.  According to Shelly’s brother Jeffrey, George Carhart was there:

“There was a pickup truck backed up to the front porch, and there were some large pieces of my sister’s furniture on there, and they were moving stuff out and loading bags up with her clothes and her belongings.”

Shelly’s mother said that she argued with Carhart about Shelly’s belongings:

“He said, ‘All of her clothes will go to charity.’ And I said, ‘We have made no arrangements to do anything of the kind.’ And as these black garbage bags were going down the stairs with her belongings in them, I was pulling them back up the stairs. And we were, like, having a tug-of-war with these bags.”

Apparently, the clothes Shelly was wearing when she was killed had been tossed into the dump.  The next day, George Carhart took Shelly’s family to the local dump to retrieve them. They never found the clothes, but they say they did discover more than two dozen jewelry boxes from Tiffany and Cartier, all of them empty.

And then there was Shelly’s truck.  Her family found what they believed to be bloodstains inside.  They asked Detective Tony Lewis of the Wilton Manors Police Department to test them:

“I did a field test to tell whether or not it was human blood, and the field test was positive. From the angle where the blood was on the passenger’s seat, it appears that it came from a head wound.”

Shelly’s family took the truck back to The Plains.  They turned it over to local authorities, who performed routine blood tests.  However, the Sheriff’s Office claimed they didn’t have the budget to do DNA comparisons.  What would DNA tests have revealed?  If the blood in Shelly’s car was her own, it could suggest that someone used the truck to move Shelly.  But according to the official scenario, only paramedics had moved Shelly after her fatal injury, and they used an ambulance.

Shelly’s family has tried to keep pressure on authorities with newspaper ads, letters, and phone calls.  Shelly’s mother, Frances, wants a full investigation, which she believes will prove Shelly was murdered:

“I can only think that an argument came about between Shelly and George or Shelly and Carter Wiley. I don’t know which of the two. I think it wasn’t a planned thing, but I think one of them struck her and killed her or felt that they had killed her or felt that they had maimed her in a very serious way. And, I think the rest of the scenario that we’ve been told is simply that—a scenario.”

The case of Shelly Malone is considered closed by local authorities.  Everyone involved declined to be interviewed.  In addition, the office of the chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. has also ruled that the death was accidental.  Yet, the family continues to hope someone will come forward with new revelations about how Shelly died.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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22 Comments

  1. Lisa0923

    There was another case several years ago, where a couple went out riding and the man claimed that (his wife) in this case, was thrown from her horse and struck her head on the only large rock in an open field. The cause of death was ruled accidental and the case was closed.
    However, they hadn’t been married long and her parents were very suspicious of the son-in-law. Her parents were relentless in trying to have her case re-opened, even going so far as having her body exumed and paying for a new autopsy. This new forensic pathologist found several strikes to the back of her head that were positively inconsistent with falling from a horse and hitting the back of her head once on a rock.
    So the parents re-doubled their efforts and finally were able to convince the sheriff’s dept. to ask the district attorney to hold a coroner’s inquest.The original coroner eventually agreed and the cause of death on the autopsy report was finally changed to inconclusive.
    I only remember that her first name was Shannon and the husband’s name was David. If I’m not mistaken, this case happened in Virginia? David was finally tried and convicted of her murder and should still be in prison. By the way, there was a large insurance payout in this case, which the D.A. in court stated was the motive for her murder.

    Reply

  2. Ann Bussart

    generally a gentle horse will only throw a rider unless scared or startled ,because they only have side vision and can not see ahead as we do.so if the horse reared it was because of something on the ground that scared them, but usually they will run away or step back away from the rider who fell. but they will not attack the rider it may have been striking at a snake or other animal. but if it hit the rider once it wouls feel it had solved the problem and back away to check ,it would very careful not to hit rider.also if rider was knocked off the horse would be confused and would run for home as their safe place that they are accustomed to. this is a clear case of murder someone hit her from behind hard enough to spook the horse so she was thrown then the murder continued to beat her to make it look like an accident

    Reply

  3. john smith

    typical cops…if they have to call it a homicide, then they have to get off their fat butts and actually work and try to find the murderer. that’s hard. easier just to call it an accident and go back to eating donuts.

    Reply

  4. anun

    Her bf was making jokes in a bar b4 her death ‘the perfect murder is placing a horse shoe on a hammer n beating them to death,then blame the horse’

    Reply

  5. Natasha

    I am over 50 now and have studied and worked with horses and ponies since I was a child. Now I am a horse whisperer. I can tell you for sure that the scenario. presented at Shelly’s time of death, makes no sense. The behavior of Shelly’s horse was not characteristic of equines. I love horses, but the ones I rode as a child hated to see me. That’s because the were boarded and fed by someone else. I only got to see them when I came to ride and they didn’t like that part of the relationship. Boy did they hate me. Mimble would try to rub me off against barbed wire fences, or run away with me at a full gallop, then put her head down and let me fly off in front of her as she stopped suddenly. Fancy Fate had a habit of running home at a full gallop. One time I had to jump off before she came to a highway. On another occasion, I was disciplining her with the reins, which really angered her like I’ve never seen before. She decided to run for the woods to knock me off, which is what happened. On both occasions, she stopped to wait for me after I hit the ground. During all of the events that I have described, Mimble and Fancy were extremely calm and loving towards me after straggling back to them. They made me feel like a child that need to learn how to treat them better. It worked, because my anger went away immediately as they made me realize how terrible I had treated them. Each time I was able to get back on them and ride home in peace. We were equals. Fancy could have easily killed me if she wanted to, but equines just do not have that in them. Don’t get me wrong, horses can kill people and have, but not in the case of Shelly’s death. They just don’t have a mean bone in their bodies. I will not educate criminals on horse behavior, so, no explanation of how they do kill. I will tell you that the story we heard about her last ride was totally concocted by common criminal hoping to fool the authorities. Shelly was too familiar with horses to have died the way she supposedly did. The spooked horse theory is out of the window too. Fancy and I were riding in a field once when we saw a man walk out of a fog bank. It spooked us both, causing Fancy to freeze in her tracks. She tried to run, but I made her stay. She was breathing heavily, snorting and shaking like a leaf. Finally the figure disappeared and we were both fine. No horse would attack you instead of the weird creature it encounters, especially in the wide open spaces where fleeing to safety is possible. They also know that you are not the threat, so why would they turn on you? No animal is that dumb. There are other inconsistencies in this case that I would like to comment on further at a later date.

    Reply

    • Kelsey Brogley

      I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have stated here. The fact that these scenarios were even presented as logical is beyond frustrating.

      Reply

  6. Alan

    Shelly I miss you

    Reply

  7. Johnny

    Shelly probably was killed and made to look like an accident. She loved horses and it would seem strange her horse would act in that manner. The long delay in medical treatment would ensure Shelly’s death. Could be one of these perfect murder type crimes. It would be difficult to gain a conviction since the horse could have made the injuries as stated.

    Reply

  8. Johnny

    This could be one of those perfect murder type of crimes. Shelly was an experienced horse rider and I find it strange that her horse would act in that manner. The Unsolved Mysteries re-creation was very effective on how the murder could have been staged. George her boyfriend sure didn’t come across as sympathetic getting rid of Shelly’s belongings so fast. I don’t know if there is one set way to grieve death but George didn’t seem to be broken up losing Shelly.

    Reply

  9. Judith Feldman

    I grew up around horses and ponies and absorbed a lot of history on the subject from my father who owned horses from the time he was 16 years old. A stallion can be aggressive and stallions have been known to turn upon their handlers and kill them. The horse that supposedly turned on Shelly may have been striking at a snake in the grass that couldn’t be easily seen, but it is possible it was striking right at her if it did not like her. I would recommend the sheriffs department involved ask about the sex and age of the horse to see if it was a young stallion or gelding that could have a volatile personality. There are also horses that have always been handled by men who do not like women, and vice versa.

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  10. Anonymous

    I have been around horses for 50 years and have never heard of such a ridiculous story. Horses do their best not to step on you – they do not repeatedly kick you when you are down, nor step on you repeatedly. They always avoid it to their best ability and may accidentally step on you once or twice while scrambling to get up but that would be a very rare occurrence. The injuries do not seem to be consistent with a riding accident. I am so sorry that this happened – it was not the horse.

    Reply

    • Johnny

      That’s a good point Anonymous. I’ve an Uncle who has owned 2 or 3 horses at a time. We have ridden them over the years. The story seems difficult to believe with the horse repeatedly kicking and striking down. The long delay time getting help when Erica was lost assured Shelly’s death. A beautiful woman who should still be living life. A real shame.

      Reply

    • Natasha

      Everyone’s comments seem right on. This is a common sense case. Our gut feelings show us the way. All we need now are experts to prove it. I hope her poor horse wasn’t sent to slaughter over this.

      Reply

    • ann bussart

      I agree with you i raised and trained horses most of my life and have had alot of spills off them the lady was murdered

      Reply

  11. Monica

    I was a friend of Shelly- to this day I am so sad to not have her letters and calls to me. I loved her very much. I would be so grateful if Jeffrey Malone, her brother and friend of mine, would contact me.

    Reply

    • Corinne

      Shelly was my friend and neighbor in Spain, we stayed in touch and she and George visited me in London. Shelly was a very beautiful and generous girl; her death was shocking to me and I suspect foul play. I learned from a close friend of Shelly’s earlier this year that sadly Jeffrey passed away inFebruary. Ian stillin touch with Shelly’s mother, Frances.

      Shelly will always hold a special place in my heart,

      Reply

  12. pinky

    I wish they’d get this opened as a cold case. She was murdered.

    Reply

  13. Sky

    I believe Erica and George had something going on and killed Shelly.

    Reply

    • rider

      I agree! Open as a cold case.
      I could see if the evidence in the field and the paramedics was all that was viewed… but what followed with the family, her personal belongings, empty jewelry boxes at the landfill, bagging up clothes, vehicle, blood and not in the budget for DNA test . The family was in town they have first rights to take care of her personal belongings.

      Reply

  14. Anynomous

    Someone is getting away with murder,foul play.

    Reply